Personal profile

Biography

1982 - 1986 BSc, University of Bath.

1986 - 1990 PhD, University of Cambridge.

1990 - 1991 Wellcome Trust Fellow. INSERM Unit 176, Bordeaux, France.

1991 - 1994 Associate Researcher. Department of Anatomy, University of Cambridge.

1994 - 2000 BBSRC Advanced Fellow. The Babraham Institute, Cambridge.

2000 - 2003 Lecturer. School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester.

2003 - 2006 Senior Lecturer. Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester.

2006 - 2008 Reader. Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester.

2008 - 2015 Professor of Integrative Biology, University of Manchester.

2015 - present Brackenbury Chair of Physiology, University of Manchester.

Research interests

Regulation of appetite and body weight

Our laboratory's interests are in the physiology of brain systems that regulate energy balance (appetite, body weight, blood glucose). Neurones in integratory centres of the brain combine synaptic inputs, including those that relay sensory and emotional information, with endocrine inputs, including feedback from circulating hormones and nutrients. Outputs from these centres then drive regulatory responses by other peripheral organs, such as the liver, pancreas and adipose tissue. An understanding of these pathways may reveal novel sites for future therapeutic intervention in diseased states, such as obesity and diabetes. This biology requires a multidisciplinary approach covering brain connectivity, signal detection and transduction, gene identification and expression, neuronal output and finally behaviour.

Recently we have provided evidence for the existence of new pathways that can integrate short-term satiety signals from the gut and brainstem, or circulating nutrients, with longer-term regulators of body weight located in the hypothalamus. We are investigating how whole brain circuits involved in homeostasis and reward respond to different stimuli depending on state and how this relates to the development of metabolic diseases. We are particularly interested in how the expression of the genome reflects the current obesogenic environment.

We use an integrative approach, investigating whole animals to molecular mechanisms. Our techniques range from single-cell electrophysiology to quantitative gene expression, histology, functional MRI and behavioural assessment. We utilise models of obesity and diabetes, including cell lines and transgenic rodents.

Overview

We are interested in the brain and how it regulates appetite, blood glucose levels, body weight and energy expenditure. Centres in the brain detect what is happening inside the body, but also in the environment, and then respond to control the amount we eat, the level of glucose in our blood which acts as a fuel, and the amount of fat that we use as an energy store. We wish to understand how the brain senses these different parameters and then interacts with other organs, like the liver, to control them. Our research requires a multidisciplinary approach covering genes, cells, tissues and behaviour. An understanding of these systems may allow them to be manipulated in the future to control metabolic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy

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